WITNEY Town Council is planning a big increase in its council tax charge due to rising costs and work to restore the Corn Exchange.

The town council is considering raising its precept by 20.62 per cent, which would see the annual charge on an average band D home go up from £100.51 to £121.24.

The council said the proposed increase in its share of the council tax bill was needed to raise £1,129,786 for the 2013-14 financial year.

The authority needs £150,000 to replenish its general reserve fund and £150,000 for capital projects.

But some planned schemes may still be delayed and the town’s Christmas lights switch-on event could be scaled back to save money.

Mayor Harry Eaglestone said: “We have got so many projects to cover, including the Corn Exchange. Utilities and bills have gone up and we have to renegotiate maintenance contracts. Many of these projects have been underfunded in previous years. We’re a new council and we’re trying to sort things out.

“To a certain extent our hand has been forced, because you can’t just leave these things. They have got to be looked after and we have got to make sure the public are safe.”

The draft budget was discussed by the council’s finance and general purposes committee on Monday.

Councillor Toby Morris said hard choices may need to be made over which capital projects would get funding and which were deferred.

The council is considering work at The Leys recreation ground, including installing bollards to keep cars out after vandalism earlier this month, and restoration work on the war memorial in Church Green.

The council’s general reserves have fallen from £302,504 last April to £189,148 now, largely due to repairs at public halls.

Thousands of pounds have been spent to restore the Corn Exchange’s facade and on Madley Park Hall and the Langdale Hall. Some money has also been used to minimise recent increases in the council’s precept.

Council documents said that without injecting more money, the general reserve was projected to fall below the recommended minimum, of £255,242, by March next year.

The Government said last month that tax rises by town and parish councils would not be capped in the next financial year, allowing the council to go ahead with a big rise.

The documents also warn that no money has been allocated for redevelopment of the Corn Exchange.

The committee will hold another meeting to finalise its budget proposals on Monday, February 11, before they are put to the full council.